Not e-commerce, but f-commerce: Facebook as a platform (for tickets to see rockstars on stage)June 22, 2011: 11:09 AM ET
Startup Fansnap is trying to bring the events business to Facebook, betting a social layer will help teams and rockstars fill seats.
FORTUNE -- I heard a new expression today: F-commerce. The "F" is for Facebook, and it refers to transactions that happen in that alternative universe that isn't merely the web, isn't specifically mobile and most definitely is not a physical store. Rather, it's commerce on that friendly service that is crowding out every other so-called platform for digital communications.
The earliest manifestation of F-commerce was Zynga, the "social" gaming company. Zynga is social in that its relatively primitive games are free and happen mostly on Facebook. The money comes from the bizarrely counterintuitive yet incredibly lucrative transactions involving virtual currency: the purchase of goods and services that only work in the game. When Zynga files its widely anticipated IPO documents, the world will see just how much money can be made on the F-platform.
Another example of what my former colleague David Kirkpatrick called the Facebook effect is Skype's recent announcement of its integration with Facebook. Skype users can use Facebook to find, and then communicate with, their friends from Facebook. If even the typically small number of Skype users who end up paying to make Skype calls continue that conversion history, Facebook will be a gold mine for Skype.
Now comes the latest Facebook commercial opportunity in the form of a nifty integration to be introduced Wednesday by Fansnap, a Silicon Valley startup that is aiming to be the Kayak of event ticketing. Kayak.com aggregates, with permission, all travel sites so that users can comparison shop in a jiffy. Travel vendors like Kayak for offering price transparency; site operators like it because it steers them business – if they have the lowest price. In turn, Fansnap has labored for three years to be the neutral clearinghouse of sports and other entertainment ticketing. It has signed up the biggest ticket sellers in the U.S., who supply their availability information directly to Fansnap. (Fansnap shares an investor with Kayak, General Catalyst, which clearly hopes to replicate its travel success.
By integrating with Facebook, Fansnap is taking the next logical step in providing users with social information they crave about a particularly social activity. "Nobody goes to events alone," says Mike Janes, CEO of Fansnap, and formerly an executive with StubHub, Apple (AAPL) and FedEx (FDX). "They always go in groups." By downloading the Fansnap app on Facebook, users will be able to answer the two questions that young people in particular ask when looking for plans: What are you doing tonight, and who else is going to be there?
By culling events that users "like" on Facebook, the app will tell people what events their friends are interested in and, with the help of Facebook's news feed, it will let them know where their friends already intend to go.
Fansnap already has two sales channels, sales from its own site and also through providing ticketing results for other sites. Its biggest customer by far has been Microsoft's search engine, Bing, which launched with a niche strategy of focusing on subject areas like travel. Janes says the Facebook venue -- which of course steers users to where they can buy available tickets to accompany their friends – "will be the biggest growth area for us by far."
F-commerce make a lot sense. Unless, that is, you're an online merchant with no relationship with Facebook.